Michigan has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. In response, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order through the end of April and tightened restrictions. For most people, being forced to stay home is simply an inconvenience. But if you’re a victim of domestic violence, staying home with your abuser is an emergency.
Though it can seem like everything has stopped, you can still pursue a safe environment and a divorce. Michigan courts are open for emergency hearings, including asking for a personal protective order (PPO) or seeking child custody. The courts are navigating remote conferencing tools for people to appear in court. You also can prepare to electronically file for divorce when the time is right for you.
Michigan Police See an Increase in Domestic Violence Calls
It’s an issue not everyone anticipated when governors across the country began to issue stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. But domestic violence is on the rise. Stay-at-home orders are forcing many victims of domestic and sexual violence to stay home with the perpetrators of the abuse.
Traverse City has had a 17% increase in domestic violence calls, according to Sarah Prout Rennie, executive director of MCEDSV. Some counties have seen calls double. The Domestic Violence Coalition of Van Buren County has seen a significant increase in calls. Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green and Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich noted the surge in domestic assaults and violence too.
There are many reasons why domestic violence is on the rise right now, including opportunity and stress. Many families are worried about their employment and finances. Money is a common stressor for fights, which can escalate to emotional, verbal, and physical abuse.
Resources for Domestic Abuse in Michigan
If you’re experiencing sexual or domestic violence at home, helpful resources include:
- Michigan Sexual Assault Hotline: 855-864-2374
- Domestic Violence Coalition of Southwest Michigan: 888-655-9008
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCEDSV) website
You can consider downloading a mobile app or program to help you gather evidence of the abuse. VictimsVoice is a program that lets you record details of domestic abuse incidents, including photos of your injuries and results of physical exams and rape kits. The information is encrypted and stored off the device, so it remains safe.
This type of program can help you gather evidence that you can then use during a divorce and child custody case. It’s not free, but you can reach out for a discounted or no-cost license during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let DeBruin Law PLLC Help You During the Coronavirus Crisis
It can feel like you have no options right now. But we want to reassure you, the police and courts are still working to protect you. If you and your children are experiencing domestic violence, you need to know that police are responding to these calls and making arrests. Try to de-escalate the situation and get to safety, and then call 911.
When it’s safe, contact DeBruin Law PLLC to discuss getting a protective order and emergency custody of your children. These are steps you can take before filing for divorce. Most family courts have limited their operations but are still hearing matters related to children’s safety. DeBruin Law PLLC can file new cases and motions electronically, including emergency custody orders. We also can represent you in virtual court hearings.
In cases in which you can prove harm, you can get a short-term emergency order without going to court or notifying the other party. For long-term protective and custody orders, you’ll have to prove your children face a substantial risk of harm from their other parent.
You Can Prepare to File for Divorce
It might not be prudent to file for divorce today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare your case. Talk with your attorney about gathering evidence of any verbal, emotional, financial, physical, and sexual abuse you’ve endured from your spouse. You don’t need grounds to get a divorce in Michigan, but proof of abuse can potentially influence the division of property, alimony, and child custody.
Reach out to DeBruin Law PLLC through our online form or call (517) 324-4303. To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, we can schedule your free case evaluation as a phone call or video conference. We also can get started on your case without meeting in person.